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11.02.2016 | Blog

Drought in Ethiopia Threatening 10 Million People

Ethiopia has been repeatedly threatened by extreme hunger. The famine of 1984/85 when up to 1 million people died is to this day etched into the memories of Ethiopians and their government. El Niño induced crop failure and death of livestock leading to extreme hunger for upwards of 10 million people. Once again Ethiopia is threatened.

Zahara Ali Mohammed has lost most of her entire livestock because of the drought – only 10 goats are left.
Zahara Ali Mohammed has lost most of her entire livestock because of the drought – only 10 goats are left. © Roland Brockmann/Welthungerhilfe

In East Africa, a devastatig hunger crisis is looming. Only in 2016 the consequences of the climate phenomenon El Niño led to a disastrous drought. People suffered from extensive crop failures and have not had the chance to recover until today. Now, the next crisis is looming. 

Social protection to fight hunger

Ethiopia is unlike other sub-Saharan countries. It has recorded double-digit economic growth over the last decade, and the government has had a social protection scheme in place for the last ten years designed to protect the poorest people from starvation. Under this scheme, six million Ethiopians work for five days each month during the lean season on public works in return for 13kg of cereal and 4kg of pulses a month. Another million people who are unable to work because of age or illness get the food handout or the cash equivalent. Despite the scheme and the commitment of an additional 380 million dollars, the Ethiopian government needs the support of the international community because of the prolonged duration and scale of the drought.

Farmers and pastoralists are losing their livelihoods 

The situation in areas where Welthungerhilfe is working (Amhara, Afar and parts of Oromia) is particularly bad. In Afar in particular, people are reliant on their livestock. Weak animals are dying from hunger and thirst. Farmers and pastoralists are trying desperately to sell them to raise enough money for food. But as is usual in these situations, the price of food is going up while the price of livestock in the market place is falling. Increasing numbers of children under two years age and women, whether pregnant or lactating mothers are presenting at clinics and feeding centers with severe acute malnutrition

Planning for the future: empowering people to help themselves

Gaps are starting to appear in the volumes of food being delivered and in the coordination of the response to the drought as the sheer scale of need is starting to overwhelm the capacity of government and of the humanitarian actors. In some cases food has been delivered by the government to areas in need but has not been distributed to people because there is not sufficient money for transportation of food to local distribution points. In other instances, there is a shortage of special food required to help the recovery of children and women when they are acutely malnourished.

Welthungerhilfe believes in empowerment. This is how we support people: 


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